One of Hollywood’s most influential filmmakers and producers, Ivan Reitman has died. According to his family, the director behind some of Hollywood’s biggest comedies passed away peacefully in his sleep on February 12th in Montecito, California. The cause of the 75-year-old’s death was not released. Reitman was behind classics like National Lampoon’s Animal House starring John Belushi and Stripes starring Bill Murray, John Candy, and Harold Ramis.
In a statement released via Associated Press, his family said they are grieving the unexpected loss of a husband, father, and grandfather who taught them to always seek the magic in life. “We take comfort that his work as a filmmaker brought laughter and happiness to countless others around the world. While we mourn privately, we hope those who knew him through his films will remember him always,” Ivan Reitman’s children Jason, Catherine, and Caroline said in the joint statement.
Born in Czechoslovakia, Ivan Reitman and his family arrived in Canada as refugees when he was four years old. He attended Oakwood Collegiate in Toronto and was a member of the Twintone Four singing group. The filmmaker also attended McMaster University, receiving a Bachelor of Music in 1969. It was at this time that he met Dan Aykroyd and Rick Moranis. Reitman’s first producing job was with the then-new station CITY-TV in Toronto. However, his time with the station didn’t last too long. He was fired during his first year by the station owner.
Although Ivan Reitman was behind some of the 1980s and 1990s most enduring comedic films, his most significant success came with 1984’s Ghostbusters. He introduced movie fans to Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz, Egon Spengler, and Ernie Hudson – eccentric parapsychologists who started a ghost-catching business in New York City. The movie went on to become a cult classic that still appeals to generations of fans.
After the phenomenal success of the first movie, Ivan Reitman directed a sequel (Ghostbusters II) which was released in 1989. The franchise went on to create two animated television series (The Real Ghostbusters and Extreme Ghostbusters), video games, and the ill-fated all-female remake in 2016. And last year, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, directed by his son Jason, introduced a new generation of fans to the original Ghostbusters.
Though none of Ivan Reitman’s subsequent features reached the same heights as Ghostbusters, he maintained his producing/directing profile with a series of comedies that refined the career of action star Arnold Schwarzenegger. The pair worked on projects like 1988’s Twins, 1990’s Kindergarten Cop, and Junior in 1994. He also produced the family-friendly Beethoven comedies which starred the loveable St. Bernard.
Most recently, Ivan Reitman’s directorial efforts included his last feature, Draft Day starring Kevin Costner. He also helmed the romantic comedy No Strings Attached, and the off-beat comedy My Super Ex-Girlfriend. In 2009, he co-produced the comedy-drama Up in the Air, starring George Clooney as a peripatetic corporate downsizing specialist. Directed and co-written by his son Jason, the film earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture and won the Oscar for best-adapted screenplay.
Ian Reitman is survived by his wife Genevieve, his son Jason, and daughters Catherine and Caroline. Jason and Catherine have followed their father’s footsteps into the entertainment industry, where they work as a director and writer-producer, respectively (via Variety).